Messi won the World Cup, Cristiano tainted his reputation further, Diaz got another injury, Elon did some things with Twitter & the Reds’ fan base waited impatiently for their team to re-emerge. With the tournament in Qatar now all done, we can all start focusing in on Christmas and all the football this festive period delivers.
After a very long break away from our domestic normality, we have ourselves a slow burn into the Premier League restart, with a 4th round tie away to Manchester City. Players will have been hastily reassembling these pasts few days and weeks, with the intention of starting strong from Boxing Day. Before we get to that, we have a titanic battle which promises to be a tasty entree to Premier League, one that we have missed oh so much.
On the availability front for the home team, Erling Haaland has been chomping at the bit for some senior football. In goal we should see Ederson start in goal with a two selected from Aymeric Laporte, Manuel Akanji, Rúben Dias and Nathan Aké at centre back. John Stones has a tight hamstring so is unlikely to be risked. At fullback Kyle Walker probably sits this one out, therefore Rico Lewis is due a rare start. At left back Sergio Gómez or João Cancelo will start to make up the defensive unit.
In midfield, Pep will want to give minutes to as many first team players as possible. Kevin De Bruyne, İlkay Gündoğan and Rodri will probably start this match up, with so much riding on that midfield battle. Kalvin Phillips and Bernardo Silva will be considered as potential starters also. The attack will inevitably see the league’s top scorer (Erling) start through the middle, with Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez on the flanks. Julian Alvarez will be a late returner after his World Cup triumph, so will not be on the match day squad. Phil Foden will probably start from the bench given his number of minutes whilst on international duty.
In terms of those available to the visitors, the injury list is more problematic than it is long. Arthur remains a myth of a player, whereas both Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota will be out for at least two months. The attacking selections (and even the midfield) will have to cater for this issue, and the coaching staff will be as keen to keep players fit as they are primed.
For Liverpool’s starting line-up it will be more of a mix and match, as Jurgen Klopp is perhaps far more concerned with getting his team ready for Aston Villa on Boxing Day. In goal we will see Caoimhín Kelleher start in goal, with this competition now fully in his hands. Trent Alexander-Arnold should start at right-back, after very limited game time for England. Andy Robertson, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez should round off our rear guard, with Virgil probably saved for next Monday evening. Ibrahima Konate will not be included for this game, after his disappointing result for France in the World Cup final.
The Reds’ midfield will likely see that which started against Milan last week, with Thiago and Harvey Elliott playing outside of the impressive Stefan Bajectic. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson are outsiders to start, however if the manager was looking to get some game time into the Brazilian, he may come into contention. James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be vying alongside the returning Naby Keita for some game time, so the chances of altered line ups are high.
In attack we should also see Darwin and Salah start, with Bobby or Carvalho also in the mix. Ben Doak will come into the match up at some point, especially after his scintillating cameo in Dubai. The away starting line-up is probably a lot harder to envisage, essentially due to their injuries. This game will be all about getting ready for the Premier League, and minutes will probably be decided before the game and delivered on point, regardless of the score line.
This game could go either way, and it will surely come down to which manager takes the competition more seriously. History dictates that Guardiola likes to get a League Cup run going, so with the reds perhaps more invested in their next game, it may see the league champions prevail. With the reds about consistent as international refereeing this season, it really is hard to know predict too much with Klopp’s men, and a home victory is therefore my prediction.
Player to watch – Ben Doak
Manchester City 3 – 2 Liverpool